FAQ’s: How to communicate with a Deaf Person?I'm not an ASL student and I don’t know sign language, how do I introduce myself to a Deaf person?
Please feel free to be you. Allow your wonderful personality to be shown. Please maintain eye contact with the Deaf person before beginning a conversation. Gestures and some written communication can be helpful in various situations.
Please keep in mind that each person’s name is unique and is sounded differently. I'd prefer that you spell out your name or write down your name since I may have not understood your name correctly in the first place.How can I reach you since you can’t hear on the phone?
Contact with me is very possible! You may call me through a relay service called ZVRS, which is fully funded by the government to accommodate for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing consumers. You may reach me at 682-730-6439. You may call me during 9:00-10:10 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You may also call me after school on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:40-4:40. If I am unavailable to answer the phone, please feel free to leave a message and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Also, feel free to email me directly at any time. I tend to check my emails within 24 hours.I need to knock on your classroom’s door but you won’t hear me knocking… what do I do?
I have special equipment that comes with flashing lights. When someone knocks, the device will light up and flashes. It will catch my visual attention and inform me that someone is at the door.
How do I get a Deaf person’s attention when he or she is looking away in the other direction?DO’s:
● Tap gently on shoulder to get attention.● If beyond the reach to tap on the shoulder, ask a person near the Deaf person to tap the Deaf person’s shoulder or wave in the air until eye contact is established.
● Switch lights on and off to get attention.DON’TS:
● Do not touch elsewhere on the body to get attention, e.g. head, face, stomach, etc.
● Do not use a fist/punch to get attention.
● Do not kick or throw things to get attention.
What techniques can I use to make communication easier for the Deaf person and me?DO’s:● Establish a comfortable distance between you and the person involved in communication.
● Establish eye contact before beginning communication. This is considered a stare in other cultures but not in Deaf Culture.
● Eye contact can also be used as a turn-taking technique, especially during group discussions where everyone looks at the next speaker.
● Wait for your turn to start signing or talking to allow the Deaf person’s eyes to follow you.
● Keep your face clear of any obstructions such as hair, scarf, etc.
● Show that you are attentive by nodding slightly. If you are expressionless, it conveys inattentiveness since we cannot hear, “mhmm, oh, yeah, huh…”
● Use written communication if necessary.
● Talk normally or at a moderate speed.
● Do not stand too close which makes it difficult for the Deaf person to view you.
● Do not stand against a light or windows that cause the room to look darker and make the Deaf person have a harder time to see you.
● If signing, try not to sign with hands full of objects such as cups, books, etc.
● Do not stand in a dark spot where it’s difficult for the Deaf person to see you.
● Do not speak too fast or too slow.
● Do not shout. Many Deaf people will still not hear you. Shouting makes the shape of the mouth distorted and cause lip-reading to become difficult. (See question below about lip-reading)
Do Deaf people lip-read?
Actually, that is a common myth. Lip-reading is genetic. Research has proven that the majority of Deaf people can only lip-read about 30% of what is being said on the lips. Feel free to go and look in the mirror and say these following words:
“Paul, mall, ball, maul,”
Do you notice that all of these words have the same mouth shapes? Do you see why lip-reading is difficult?
“Olive Juice” and “Elephant Shoes.”
Do you realize they can be easily confused with the word, “I love you?” Misunderstandings like these can be really awkward in particular moments.
There are also a lot of other challenging factors that make lip-reading difficult such as these following examples:
- Standing under poor lights, which make the lips difficult to see.
- Overly-enunciating every single word. This actually distorts the shape of your mouth.
- Some people mumble, which is hard to lip-read.
- Excessive facial hair that covers the mouth makes it even harder.
- People’s speech differs by enunciation, tone, pitch, mouth movements, accents, and etc.
I do have training in lip-reading skills. I can do well in most one-on-one conversations. Please face me while talking and maintain eye contact. Please repeat words that I missed, write things down, use gestures, and etc. Feel free to learn the manual alphabet to fingerspell with me as well. You may click on this link to learn the manual alphabet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkMg8g8vVUo If a lengthy meeting is required then I might request an interpreter during our meeting to help the communication process to go smoothly. Each person’s voice is different and it’s not something you can control. It is embedded into nature. The best approach is to be flexible, be patient and work together to find an effective way to communicate in the end. You’ll realize that it’s a lot easier than it appears to be. We will find a way to accomplish communication in the end!
You speak really well for a Deaf person so that means you can hear me right?
Speech and listening are two complete different things. I am COMPLETELY Deaf since birth. I do not hear as much as some of you might think I do. I do fairly well in most one-on-one conversations. However, during group conversations, it is far more challenging for me to follow voices. I would truly appreciate your cooperation to make this process more effective by using those techniques mentioned above and any other possible ways to make communication more effective. Also, some Deaf people find it highly offensive when someone discuss about the quality of their speech. Some Deaf people choose not to speak because their voices might sound funny and they don't want to be judged for it. Also, some Deaf people choose not to speak because of their cultural pride. The Deaf Community do not accept speech as a part of our culture. The Deaf Community's main focus is toward their native language which is American Sign Language. In the Deaf Community, our primary goal is to promote our beautiful language. We want people to recognize American Sign Language as our natural language and not our speech. We don't want people to believe that speech is superior to American Sign Language. We want ASL to be recognized equally like any other spoken languages.
You should use hearing aids or cochlear implants to cure your deafness. Your life will be so much easier right?
Those technologies do not cure deafness. Auditory devices are not always reliable. Those devices do still not recognize many different sounds. Plus, auditory devices are not for every single Deaf person. Each person’s hearing status level varies and not every single one of them is a candidate for those auditory devices. Beside, when a Deaf person takes off a hearing aid or cochlear implant, he or she is still Deaf. Also, this might surprise you. The majority of the Deaf Community rejects hearing aids and especially, cochlear implants. Deaf people belong to a cultural group that share a common language, beliefs, values, norms, traditions, social habits, and etc. We do not believe in “curing” deafness. We do not want to be treated as something that needs to be fixed. We want the world to accept us for who we are. We ask for acceptance. We want the right to stand out as a Deaf person and be different. There is also a common misconception that those auditory devices are the main reason why our lives function effectively. However, that’s a myth. You can hear sounds all day long and not understand a single thing. A foundation of strong visual language at a very early age is what makes us grow successfully. There are many Deaf people out there who successfully perform their tasks without these auditory devices. There are Deaf doctors, lawyers, dentists, pilot drivers, and so forth. Yes, there are Deaf people out there who choose to use those technologies. Deaf people are entitled to making their own personal decisions. Again, we are not broken. We are not searching to be fixed. We just want to be accepted. We embrace being Deaf since it is a part of us.
Which word below is a polite terminology to describe people who can’t hear?
A. Deaf and Dumb
B. Deaf and Mute
C. Hearing Impaired
D. Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing
E. Deaf and deaf
The choice A is incorrect because there are nothing dumb about Deaf people. There are many educated Deaf people out there. Many of Deaf people have a degree and a career. Claudia Gordon is a black female lawyer that works in the Whitehouse in Washington D.C. Marlee Matlin is an actress who has won many various awards such as the Oscar. CJ Jones is a comedian that travels around the world. The list of successful Deaf people goes on. Please view this short video to view different types of careers that these Deaf people have. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASO_gnObtS4 The choice B is incorrect because not all of us are mutes. Some of us do use speech. However, speech is not for every single Deaf person. Speech therapy requires years of tiresome trainings. It’s hard to teach sounds to someone who doesn’t hear sounds. Sadly, ninety-percent of hearing parents with Deaf children, do not realize that sounds are not needed for one’s brain to function. The brain is independent and has the ability to function on its own through other stimulations. Some of those parents in the ninety percent tend to view Deaf children as something broken. Instead of focusing on learning a visual language that is accessible to them, many hearing parents constantly stress the focus on making their child “normal” in order to fit in the society at large. Deaf children who have minimal access to language are often distracted from other learning opportunities such as math, science, reading, sports, and so forth. Some of those parents subconsciously cause the children to feel neglected and unaccepted. This tends to send a message to Deaf children that being Deaf is a shame. Those children are often left in isolation with the inability to communicate with their parents. This is one of the main reasons why the average Deaf adult in the U.S. graduate with a reading level of a fourth grader. Through research, parents who use sign language do provide Deaf children a higher rate of success. Those Deaf children tend to receive access to a rich vocabulary. I am blessed to know that my parent is in that small 10 percent of people who have learned sign language. Because of them, I am an educated Deaf person with a Bachelor Degree and a teaching certification in Texas. Now, choice D is NOT acceptable. There is nothing impaired about us. We do not have the inability to belong to a society at large. Many people tend to assume that this is the most correct terminology to describe Deaf people. However, think about this… if a Hispanic family decides to adopt a Caucasian/White child. This Hispanic family decides to raise this child to speak Spanish and be raised in Hispanic culture. The family and this child do not share the same skin color. Does this make the child Hispanic-Impaired? Now, that wouldn’t make sense. D and E are correct answers. The choice D describes those who can’t hear in a positive sense without using terms such as “dumb” or “impaired.” Choice E is something that belongs to the Deaf Community and its culture. Capital “D” deaf is used to describe those who do accept themselves and embrace American Sign Language. Lowercase “d” deaf is used to describe those who are still developing their own identity and are struggling to accept themselves as a Deaf person of culture.